Don't Be a Wimp; Train Your Willpower

Shane Trotter

Coach

Mansfield, Texas, United States

Strength and Conditioning, Kettlebells, Youth Development

Monday through Sunday, I’m up by 5, immediately jumping into a movement circuit and then whatever creative work I’ve prioritized for the day. To an outsider, it would appear I have discipline down. With few exceptions, I fit in my daily workout, eat well, and fend off procrastination. Still, a part of me is always trying to rebel. I finish breakfast and want to keep on eating- just for the sport of it. Its worse on those occasional trips for ice cream.

 

My wife and I will get a cone and by the end of it I’m thinking to myself, “I could have another.”

 

 

Similarly, I’ll set up a word document to begin writing and feel a pull to do anything but focus on creating a coherent message. I want to check email, write fitness programs, call colleagues, read articles, or find any other excuse to be busy while less productive.

 

When it is time for my workout, I often feel immense inertia trying to hold me still. Even biking to work sometimes invites the flood of wimp instinct. My commute is 10-minutes by car and 20 by bike. The time difference is negligible, yet my inner wimp still makes himself heard from time to time.

 

Without a doubt the most fulfilling pursuits of my life have been writing, learning, creating courses, and the pursuit of health and yet I’m still constantly tempted to skip these in favor of more passive entertainment.

 

Facing the Daily Assaults of Impulsiveness

Despite the immense fulfillment health and creative production have brought to my life, I still face the daily assaults of infantile impulsiveness. I’ve become very successful quelling these daily rebellions and am always amazed to find purpose, passion, and flow hiding on the other side. My workout leaves me energized all day, my writing excites and feeds my spirit, and by

5 pm my level of production leaves me gratified and capable of booting down.

 

I shudder to think what my life would have been had I made it a habit to give in. This is part of the secret to greater willpower: vivid clarity about how painful it would be to choose the opposite, easy path. Because you don’t do the opposite choice once.

 

You do it and it becomes a habit. You skip that planned workout and subconsciously give yourself permission to do it again and again. Your inner wimp wins and you are tortured all day with regret. Your inability to fight for 15 minutes plagues you at the moment and defines you over a lifetime.

 

Willpower Is the Choice to Create Your Life

Willpower is the ability to do what you know you should. It is the ability to be the person you want to be, rather than an impulsive, whiny child. It is the power to create your life, rather than the entitlement for life to bend and acquiesce your immediate desires.

 

Willpower goes by many names: grit, discipline, delayed gratification, self-mastery, tenacity, awesomeness. Regardless of what you call it, studies indicate that willpower is the primary determinant of happiness and success in life.

 

Don't Be a Wimp; Train Your Willpower - Fitness, nutrition, fitness, meditation, movement, video games, fitness motivation, sedentary iifestyle, delayed gratification

Photo by Bev Childress

 

 

The famed 1960’s Stanford Marshmallow test put hundreds of four and five-year-olds in a room with a single marshmallow. They could eat the marshmallow or wait the fifteen minutes it took researchers to return and be rewarded two marshmallows for waiting.

 

Participants were tracked over the next four decades and those who waited fifteen minutes were healthier, happier, and more successful by every metric. Similarly, in the 1940’s, Harvard conducted a study1 to see how long inblockquoteidual college sophomores would stay on a steeply inclined treadmill traveling at high speeds.

 

Researchers believed test performance would indicate the “extent to which a subject is willing to push himself or has a tendency to quit before the punishment becomes too severe.”

 

Some jumped off after little more than a minute. The majority made it around four minutes. Scientists contacted all the study participants every two years over the next 60 to collect data and prompt a lifestyle questionnaire. Like the Stanford test, they found that those who persisted longer were more successful and better psychologically adjusted.

 

Regardless of luck or fortune, chaos repeatedly happens to us all. Those with willpower persist and practice the discipline necessary to weather life’s storms and continually grow. Most essentially, those with discipline will almost certainly practice better health practices, a tendency that makes them more capable and emotionally resilient to whatever life throws at them.

 

Willpower Is Finite

Willpower is like a muscle in that it fatigues when used consistently and can be strengthened over time. Unfortunately, this breakthrough realization has often been used to discount its utility. Rather than set out to grow stronger, most excuse the cookie binge because it is human nature to indulge at the end of a hard day. True, like our muscular endurance, willpower is finite.

 

It is highly unlikely that based on a momentary decision you will go from never working out to crushing CrossFit every day for the next 30 years. These things are a process. However, we should all be going to great lengths to train willpower.

 

In this bizarre world where indulgence and instant gratification becomes evermore normal, we should make delayed gratification the foremost objective of our educational and parenting strategies, while creating daily discipline exercises for ourselves.

 

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

 

Normal May Not Make You Happy

Most of society floods us with messages telling us that “snoozing is great.” “It is human.” “It is what everyone does.” “It is normal.” And they are right. It is normal. Just like its normal to eat predominately processed, sugar infused treats and fast food- just as its normal to rarely exercise- just as its normal to sit and scan your phone all day. I’d like to offer a different message. These things are the norm and will continue to be. However, they won’t make you happy.

 

You can feel better about yourself by hiding behind how normal your behavior is, but it will continue to limit your potential and impede your development. It will preclude your greatest impact, eliminate countless profound experiences, and leave you knowing you were capable of so much more. Then you, like all of us, will die. Time is all we really have and yours was spent rather than invested.

 

Combat Negative Cultural Trends

Most of my work focuses on combatting negative cultural trends by clarifying a better path and seeking the secrets of successful change. Yet all of my advice has been useless if we can’t accept personal responsibility and practice a degree of willpower.

 

Learning about habits will only take you so far. Simplifying will only take you so far. Eliminating chips and soda from your home will only take you so far. Until you confront your own personal expectations and chase self-mastery, your efforts are futile.

 

Quit acting like you don’t know what you need to do. Quit acting like you are powerless to this craving. Quit telling yourself that discipline is easier for other people, or that you just have an impulsive personality.

 

I don’t care if it is nature or nurture that brought you to this point in your life. My only concern is delivering a message that moves people in the right direction.It doesn’t matter if your parents fed you pop-tarts and let you play video games all day. What matters is you can change. You have the power and no one else is going to step in and do it for you.

 

As Tony Robbins says, “biography is not destiny.”

 

Solutions-Focused-Therapy has had tremendous success creating change in clients without obsessing on “biography.” Rather than dig through and overanalyze every negative experience of your childhood, these psychiatrists focus only on finding and replicating success. They only want the solutions. The rest they term, “true but useless.”

 

Create Discipline

My point is not that you should work maniacally or live a monastic life of self-denial. Rather, you should create the discipline to be intentional with how you spend your life. You should work to create the discipline to be healthier so that you have more years and more life in those years.

 

You should have the willpower to train your emotions so that you treat people the way you wish you could. You should work to create the purpose and projects that honor your short time. Behaving in the way you want to behave starts with committing to training discipline. But how?

 

You could wake to movement, take a cold shower before work each day, create a meditation habit, or add any of billion small daily discipline exercises. Plan ahead, start small, adapt, and add more over time.

 

Whatever you decide, the most important part of building discipline is to never allow yourself to not follow through on a plan. If you plan to workout, you have to. Even if your boss was a jerk today. If you said you wouldn’t snooze the alarm, you can’t. Planned to not check email and social media until lunch each day? Then don’t. Too tired and grumpy for that cold shower? Shut up and get in. 99% is a wimp.

 

The Thousand Dollar Test

So often negative perceptions allow us to talk ourselves out of behaving like we’d like.

 

There is a simple trick: the thousand-dollar test. You can’t go anymore. You’re just too tired. You aren’t feeling it today. If someone offered you a thousand dollars to do what you’d planned to do, would you finish? I thought so.

 

It is a simple way to reframe and reveal the lie behind your sense of powerlessness. What presented as a lack of ability is actually a lack of immediate purpose.

 

Train Your Willpower

While you can get started training discipline today, your efforts will eventually stagnate. Despite your immense power, the reality is that there will be times you fail. This is why it is so essential for you to make it a habit to learn and grow. This inclination promotes learning from failure and persisting past roadblocks. It opens your eyes to the benefit of other people’s experience.

 

For more help on your journey to train willpower, check out my new Willpower and Resiliency Course. For less than $10 you’ll gain a better capacity for willpower- the primary determinant of your ability to be the person you want to be.

 

Reference:

1. Catarina Lino, 'Is Grit the New It? Developing Your Passion and Practicing Perseverance." Positive Psychology Program. accessed July 24, 2018.

 

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